Look Ma, No Hands! – Automated Vehicles Driving the Vegas Strip

Driving Hands Free on the Vegas Strip?             cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by http2007

It’s 2012. According to Back to the Future, we are 3 years away from “the future”. And while we might miss the mark on flying cars, we are one step in the right direction of displaying our technologically advanced state of “future-ness” with cars that drive themselves.

Automated cars have been buzzing around the news for a little while and sounded like a fun idea that might never take off. But now the online pioneers at Google are set and good to go for real world testing… in one of most challenging places to drive – Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas, Neveda. Although their permit gives access to test the driver-less vehicle on several of the State’s roads, the Sin City Strip should provide some solid testimonial to how well the automated system reacts to all sorts of scenario’s.

“They’re [automated vehicles] designed to avoid distracted driving, When you’re on the strip and there’s a huge truck with three scantily clad women on the side, the car only sees a box.” said Bruce Breslow, the director of Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Google’s automation system is an elaborate computer system hooked up to the vehicle and information is gathered from a lazer radar (LIDAR) on top of the vehicle, camera’s inside the car and radar sensors in-front of the vehicle that are all combined and processed though  an extremely advanced, headache if you tried to understand-it, program which allows the vehicle to avoid any obstacles and drive the vehicle safely. The system mixes the technology with Google street maps and a GPS.

The automated cars in Nevada will be distinguished by an infinity symbol on the license plate indicating that the vehicle may not be driven by a human. The permit requires two people in the car at all times – one in the drivers chair, and another monitoring a computer screen showing the planned route and what it “sees” in terms of hazards and traffic lights ahead. In the event of a glitch, or computer crash the human driver can override the computer with a tap on the footbrake or a hand on the steering wheel.

Seems like the future is coming sooner than later, what do you think? Would you mind sharing the road with vehicles that are driving its passengers without any interaction from a human? Could this be the beginning of the end of road rage and honking your horn at vehicles to speed up? Check out the video below, you’d probably be surprised to see how fast and accurate the system can navigate a test track.

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